Relativity Space launches first 3D printed orbital rocket

Relativity Space successfully launched the world’s first 3D printed rocket capable of achieving orbit tonight. The first stage launched at 11:25 EDT, successfully passed through Max-Q, and separated from the second stage. The second stage engine did not successfully light, but the mission achieved its primary objective, which was to produce data through Max Q.

It was a very impressive showing for a first flight of brand new everything: a new company, new engines, new body technology, first methane-LOX fueled orbital rocket. And 85% of the rocket was 3D printed. The body was printed using their new Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing (WAAM) process – picture a wire-fed arc welder on a robot arm drawing a bead on a 7m rotating platter, and that’s pretty much how it was printed. The engines were made largely of parts printed by aluminum sintered powder methods.


Nice. Perhaps cross-post to Spaaaaace?

For the engines and other components with complex geometry, internal fluid channels, etc., 3D printing makes a lot of sense. But using it to make a thin-walled, perfectly cylindrical pressure vessel seems like a waste of potential to me. It’s relatively easy to make cylinders with conventional manufacturing techniques. Why not use this technology to make the rockets a cooler, retro-futuristic shape instead?


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